The importance of a good keyword strategy for ecommerce SEO should not be underestimated. The goal of ecommerce is to make sales, and aside from paying for traffic with ads, using keywords to get your products ranking on the first page of a search engine—whether it’s Google, Bing or even YouTube—is the single most effective thing you can do to bring shoppers to your site.
In this post we’ll guide you step-by-step how to do keyword research to build out an effective keyword strategy that can be used to plan and optimize your website pages.
What is Keyword Research?
Keyword research is the process of identifying common words, terms and phrases that people are searching for via search engines, in order to understand which of these are most valuable to try to rank for. A key component of a search engine optimization (SEO), keyword research helps determine how you will craft each of the pages on your ecommerce site to attract the right kind of traffic to your store: shoppers who want to buy!
What’s the Best Way to Do Keyword Research?
If you search the web for ‘how to do SEO keyword research’ you won’t find just one method, you’ll find many. And while there is no ‘best’ way to do keyword research as it differs for every brand, industry, and audience, ecommerce SEO expert, Igor Cerjan from Perceptiv Digital recommends these five steps:
How to do Keyword Research for SEO
Step 1. Understand your current position
Assuming you’ve had an ecommerce store for a while and aren’t just starting out, the first step to build your strategy is to first understand how your site is currently performing. This is so that you can leverage what's working and tailor your strategy accordingly. For example, you want to know:
- Which keywords bring the most traffic to your site?
- Which products, categories and pages bring in the most traffic?
- Which landing pages are ranking for which keyword?
You can use Google Search Console and Google Analytics to find these things out. In Google Search Console, use the ‘performance’ report to look at the queries that you’re ranking for and pages that are ranking. Make sure you have all of the coloured boxes selected (total clicks, total impressions, average CTR and average position), and use the ‘queries’ and ‘pages’ tabs at the bottom of the page to view your current performance.
You might even find some queries that you’re ranking for that you hadn’t thought of.
Step 2. Select which topics to focus on
Have you ever heard the saying jack of all trades, master of none? Well, this applies to SEO too. Although there might be a lot of topics you’d like to rank for, the reality is that this is really, really hard. Even the most authoritative sites out there can’t rank for everything, so Igor suggests being smart about what you are trying to achieve, especially when there’s limited resources or budget to play with.
Topics vs keywords
You also need to be ‘worthy’ of ranking in Google’s eyes, and the best way to do this is to build some focus within your broader niche. Google’s algorithms now place higher importance on topic clusters as opposed to keywords, which means you should aim to cover a few topics really well rather than scratching the surface of lots of areas by just targeting ad hoc keywords.
To choose your focus topics, first identify which products, categories and content you as a business want to be known for. Then look at your sales data—usually, you’ll have a few product lines that sell really well or that you already rank reasonably well for (which you will have found using Google Search Console in Step 1). Areas that you are already performing well in are a good starting point for your topics as you will already have some authority.
Step 3. Keyword research
Once you have selected your topics and target products, categories or pages you want to rank, the next step is to do keyword research to build a 'seed list' of keywords: the search queries or terms most relevant to your business. From there you’ll determine which keywords are worth targeting based on an array of factors, but we’ll get to that in a moment.
To generate your list of seed keywords you can tap into the following resources:
- Your knowledge of terms directly relating to your products and industry - it’s a good idea to brainstorm this with people from different areas of the business.
- Phrases and terms that your customers use - your chat and support records will be helpful here as customers may refer to something differently to what you do.
- Google Search Console to find keywords and queries that your pages are already ranking for.
- Keyword tools to find ideas for keywords you might not have thought of.
- Competitive Analysis to find the terms your competitors are ranking for.
- Google Autosuggest to find related queries.
There are thousands of SEO and keyword research tools you can use for Step 4, 5 and 6 of your keyword research, but I’ll just briefly touch on a few of our favorites - most of which are free or cheap.
SEMrush is a powerful SEO, content marketing and PPC tool, and can be used to generate keyword ideas, find gaps and conduct competitor research. Although it’s great at finding short tail keywords like ‘linen sheets’ it’s not so good at finding long tail keywords.
To find the organic keywords your competitors are ranking for in SEMrush, navigate to the ‘Competitive Research Toolkit’ in the left hand toolbar and then click on ‘organic research’, ‘competitors’ and type one of your competitor’s URLs into the search bar.
As an example, we’ll use brooklinen.com.
This will generate a list of the keywords they are ranking for which might be relevant keywords for you to target too. Export it as a .csv and repeat for your other main competitors.
Ahrefs is another powerful SEO tool which will give you lots of keyword ideas and metrics that show the difficulty, search volume, and clicks for a particular keyword to help you measure how frequently the keyword is being used and in which countries.
You know when you start typing your search into the Google search-box and a drop down box appears suggesting similar searches? This is known as Google Autosuggest or Autocomplete and these phrases are absolute gold for your keyword strategy as they show you exactly what other people are searching for around your topic.
Play around by adding different words to the beginning and end of your keyword to get different permutations of your phrase. For example if your topic is bedding and your keyword is ‘linen sheets’, you could append ‘how’, ‘are’ and ‘where’ to the head term.
As great as Google Autosuggest is It would be pretty time-consuming to follow this process for all of your topics and keywords and manually copy each of them across into a spreadsheet. Luckily, other people had this same thought and have created tools to solve this problem. Keywordtool.io scrapes Google suggest to generate keyword ideas that are appended and prepended with various letters and numbers, generating hundreds of keywords for a single search term in seconds that you can copy and paste into your spreadsheet for free.
Answer the Public
Answer the Public is another tool that provides keyword suggestions using the Google autosuggest engine, but it aggregates your results to make it really easy to see the different ways people are searching including:
- Who, what, when, where, how, why, which, can, are, will
- Appended words in alphabetical order
Download the lot into a .csv and you’ll have thousands of keywords to work with.
Selecting your keywords
Don’t be alarmed if after following each of those steps you’ve got a pretty long list of keywords—that’s what we want. The next step is to narrow down the keywords by looking at:
- Their closeness to your target niche
- Your current rankings
- Their overall potential in terms of search volume
- Their estimated competitiveness
- Their intent
To get the monthly search volume and competitiveness of each keyword you can use the Google Adwords Keyword Planner tool (note that you need to have a current campaign running).
Navigate to 'tools' and then ‘Keyword planner’ and click on ‘get search volumes and forecasts’.
Paste in the keywords you’ve found using your research so far and click ‘get started’. On the next page, be sure to select 'historical metrics'. Export this list of keywords to see the average monthly searches and competition. Just be aware the keyword planner will only analyze short to medium tail keywords, it won’t compute some of the longer-tail phrases that keyword tools like keywordtool.io will give you i.e. ‘king size linen sheets green’ like in the example below.
Typically, keywords with higher volume will be more difficult to rank for than those with low volume, but they will also be more valuable as they have the capacity to bring more website traffic to your store. The competition score will also indicate how difficult the keywords are to rank, based on how many other sites are also targeting them.
Newer sites have better opportunities with longer-tail keywords with less competition. But you also need to consider something called intent.
High intent keywords are those where the searcher is highly likely to follow through and make a purchase — keywords with terms like ‘buy’, ‘now’, ‘cheapest’ attached. These are also known as ‘transactional’ keywords.
Informational keywords, on the other hand, are low-intent because searchers are usually only after an answer to a question - a definition, or in our bed sheets example they might be wondering ‘how linen is made'.
Ideally, you want to target keywords with enough search volume and that are high intent (although these are also likely to be the ones with greater competition). Longer tail informational keywords are well suited to blog content and will help you build authority on your topic.
How many keywords should I target?
The number of keywords you choose will depend on your niche and your target page, typically to start with, anywhere between 1 and 15 keywords can be chosen and you can build on it from there. However, Igor suggests keeping it on the smaller side for each page and generally choosing no more than 5 keywords, including your main keyword.
Now you have a list of keywords to work with let’s talk about what you’re going to do with them.
Step 4. Develop your landing page strategy
Write out a strategy for each landing page based on the keywords that fit those pages—you’ll have your primary or main keyword, secondary keywords, and LSI keywords.
LSI stands for 'latent semantic indexing', which refers to words that are semantically related to your primary keyword and help search engines to better understand your content. LSI keywords are frequently found together in the same context, for example if you are talking about 'Nike' you might also talk about 'sneakers' or 'fitness'.
You should also plan out how you will use other existing content on the site for inbound and outbound links. This is because linking content to other content, categories or products on your website is good for SEO. This is known as interlinking or cross linking and tells Google which pages are the most important.
This can be as simple as linking all of your product pages on linen sheets to the category page on bed sheets, but you should consider the overall information architecture of your site as a whole and how your category pages, product pages, blog posts, buying guides etc. can all link to each other.
Try to leverage the different content on your site. You may need to write new content, re-hash old content and look at ways to build external links to your site.
Step 5. Implement your on-page SEO strategy
Now you’re ready to start the doing! Your on-page SEO strategy should include how you’re going to change title tags, headers, scatter keywords and LSI keywords throughout each page.
Ideally your main keyword will appear in your title, your H1 tags, your meta description and the first 100 words of each page. Your ecommerce platform should make it easy to add these in your page builder. Stay away from the outdated SEO tactic of keyword stuffing, where you use the same keyword over and over again, and instead use synonyms or variations of the keyword.
Keep track of these activities in a spreadsheet so you can see what you’ve done and what to do next.
Step 6. Optimize
SEO is never ‘done’. You should be continually reviewing your rankings and updating and tweaking pages to keep your content fresh and and on page 1 of Google. Although we based this post on Google’s search engine, the same principles apply everywhere, so no matter what channel you’re using keywords for be sure to do your research first.
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